Gaining peace when working at home…

Diane Hall

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Woman sat in front of desk stressed out from working from home.

Whilst it’s more physically convenient to work from home—no commute, no micro-managing boss breathing down your neck, no office politics or dress code—it does come with its challenges.


During this national lockdown, a significant portion of the population will be working from their home office, spare bedroom, kitchen table, garden shed…whatever. 


And, as so many of us will be doing this, it’s quite possible that you won’t be the only adult working from home.


Throw in the number of schoolchildren who are currently isolating because someone in their year group/class bubble has contracted the virus and you may find entire households holed up.

I get that a busy workplace is anything but quiet, but it’s rare that a colleague will want to sit on your lap and show you what they’ve drawn with their crayons. Neither will your boss insist you walk the dog or put a load of washing in. And the hustle and bustle of an office environment doesn’t quite grate on your nerves as much as the Peppa Pig theme tune when it’s the fourteenth time you’ve heard it that day.


So, how can you get any work done when everyone and their dog is also in the house?


Be flexible with your working hours

Whilst you may be more used to a 9-5 working routine, exercise flexibility when working within a busy household. Get up an hour earlier to get some work done or complete work tasks in the evening when the kids are in bed. Don’t see it as ‘extra’ work – take the time back during the day for family time. It may slightly blur the boundaries between work and play, but if in that early or late hour of work, you’re ten times more productive because you can fully concentrate, it’s worth considering. 


Concentrate on your output and the quality of your work, rather than how many hours you’re sat at the computer. A homeworking environment is not the same as the workplace, it’s much more fluid. As long as the work you produce is of the same calibre, it shouldn’t matter how or when in the day that work is done.


Childcare sharing

If you and your partner are working from home, don’t both try and work at the same time if you can help it. Why not work in the mornings whilst your other half entertains the kids in another part of the house, then swap over in the afternoon whilst your partner gets some work done? Again, look at it as quality work over quantity; though you would probably both work more hours if you were at your computers at the same time, you’re unlikely to be as productive if you’re interrupted every two minutes by your little ones.


Obviously, if there’s a childcare solution outside of the home via a childminder or grandparent/family member within your bubble, that’s a better solution all round—but this may not be an option for everyone. If you have to juggle childcare with working, and your partner does, too, take it in turns if your deadlines allow this.


Have your child ‘work’ too

If you’re sole carer, and you have a task that simply has to be done, ask your child to go to work with you. Set them up a workspace in your office, or at the kitchen table, and pack their lunchbox as if they were really joining you at your workplace. Give them a pad of paper and some pencils and get them to write a letter to your boss that asks him/her to give you some time off to play. Stress that the more colourful the picture/letter, the more time your boss will let you have off ‘work’ to play with them. 


This will at least keep them quiet for an hour or so (the snacks will help!). Knowing that they will get your attention after ‘work’ will be a huge plus, though you must follow up with a shared play activity afterwards to reward them for their patience and behaviour, and also so that they will be inclined to play this game again when you next have some work to do.


Use a digital babysitter

Parenting gurus would have my hide for suggesting this, but when you absolutely need to get some work done, there’s no harm in settling your kids down in front of the telly/tablet and putting on their favourite film for an couple of hours. These things just have to be done sometimes. If it keeps you in a job and a roof over everyone’s head, Supernanny will surely forgive you.


Turn off notifications

Maybe you don’t have young children to distract you, but your technology threatens to do so. It’s easy to spend an hour or so surfing the web or checking your social media profiles if you’re prone to procrastinating over tasks you’re not keen on. 


Technology should serve you. There’s always an off switch or a way to turn off notifications on any phone, laptop or tablet. Work offline if you can, at least until the task is complete. 


When anything is more exciting than work

When I work from home, household tasks manage to look exciting all of a sudden. I’m a born procrastinator, and when I become disengaged with my work, putting some washing on or emptying the dryer is suddenly a joy not a chore. I can busy myself for hours rather than simply sitting down and getting on with the task at hand (I don’t have this problem in the workplace).


There’s a book entitled ‘Eat That Frog’, which suggests you treat the tasks you like least as a priority, Like a sticking plaster, grit your teeth and just pull it off! Get these tasks done first, then it’s downhill for the rest of the day (you may even fly through your work and enjoy some spare time!). Commit to just 15 minutes doing the task you’re trying to avoid; you’ll probably find that, when you actually begin to tackle it, you’ll choose to continue, rather than break off after quarter-of-an-hour. 


Headphones

You may have a household that’s happy to entertain itself, but which is the loudest home on the street whilst doing so. If this is the case, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Problem sorted.


A formal workspace

You may not have the option of adding a home office to the layout of your house, nor the funds/space to build one in the garden. Whether you’re working from your bedroom, the kitchen table or a corner of the living room, keep it as orderly and organised as possible. 


It will be much more difficult to get on with your work each morning if you have to shift tons of toys, or if you’re scrabbling about for that very important paperwork that was only in your hands yesterday. Take the extra time at the end of the day to pack up properly, putting work in folders, etc. so that everything has its place. Not only will it look better, your mind will feel less cluttered, too.


What tips could you share with fellow homeworkers that have made a difference to you? Tweet us at @intheknowemag


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